There is an extensive manhunt on today for traces of the real Republican Party. The Party of No has amazingly continued, and sightings of the Elephant being loaded into a beat-up Tea Party panel van indicate foul play may have occurred.
This is a fascinating time for students of government and political science. We used to have a two-party system of government. Today we have a two-party system of election, and a one party system of governance. Worse still, we have entered a perpetual election cycle, where the purpose of those elected, to govern, is being obliterated by the obsessions of achieving and holding power.
Perhaps the most amazing incarnation of the hijacking of the Republican Party to raw electioneering was the gamesmanship over the ratification of a new START treaty with the Russians.
START is not just a treaty to keep fewer nuclear bombs pointed at your dinner table. Its system of mutual verification also keeps us safe from nuclear materials falling into the hands of the world's whacky dictators and chest-thumping holy warriors who can't feed their own people but seem to think that they have stockpiled enough coats and long underwear for a nuclear winter.
The Republicans are supposed to be the party of national security. As we found out this week, though, when GOP senator John Kyl, a leading Republican voice on national security, began gaming the ratification of the new START treaty with Russia, to the seeming political advantage of denying Mr. Obama and the lame duck session of Congress any legislative victory, legislation and governance ride a hard back seat to election politics even when there's not an election in sight for another two years.
He was not alone, though. Kyl's political poker was backstopped by the rest of the Republican leadership on the Hill in one of their usual calls for "more time" to study the issue, even though, as the New York Times Op-Ed on this fiasco observed:
In a statement on Tuesday, he said there is not enough time to act during the lame-duck session, given other unspecified items on the Senate agenda and the "complex and unresolved issues related to Start and modernization."
What Mr. Kyl did not mention is that there have already been countless briefings and 21 Senate hearings on the treaty -- sufficient for Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, the country's top military leaders, six former secretaries of state (from both parties), five former secretaries of defense (from both parties) and seven former nuclear weapons commanders to endorse it.
As for concerns about "modernization," President Obama has already promised an extra $84 billion over 10 years to modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex and its arsenal. That would raise spending 20 percent above the levels of the Bush years and is far more than we think is necessary. "
The next Civil War is well under way, with Tea Party-backed candidates, and GOP politicians in districts with heavy Tea Party movements building, under the gun to support Libertarian thinking on government spending. Square in their cross-hairs are earmarks, the so-called political "pork" of needed local and state projects. These usually small needs of federal funds have no home in the legislative process as it stands, so they are usually tacked on to other bigger bills to get them passed.
In theory, the process does not allow for an up/down vote on each of these smaller needs. In practice, taking up the time of the House and Senate to discuss a traffic light in West Branch, Texas, or a bridge improvement in Big Sur, California, probably would keep politicians working 20 hour days until the end of time.
It is the fault of guys like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, who tried to tag anything that Democrats put into bills as pork, even though Republican stalwart John McCain's air craft carrier from his early days and deceased former senator Ted Stevens' famed "Bridge to Nowhere" probably top the list of expensive local patronage.
Michelle Bachmann doesn't like pork, but she doesn't consider road and bridge construction projects to be an "earmark." Convenient.
Kentucky senator Mitch McConnell, the Jimmy Dean of political pork, did a 180 on the practice to avoid the ire of the Koch brothers legion of Tea Party zombies.
Everybody wants to game the process, but no one from the GOP side of the aisle has suggested ways of retooling the legislative process to allow for the funding of projects that are good and necessary uses of Federal funds.
The GOP is the Party of No because No is the only answer that wins elections, and everything is about the next election.
We face huge deficits and tough political decisions that require elected officials to step up to the plate, work together, and govern this nation.
Mr. Obama is trying to do just that. He established the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform several months ago. It is a bipartisan task force that was established to find solutions to bring our government's fiscal house in order after the years of runaway spending of St. Ron the Senile and Bush the Village Idiot.
Not surprisingly, the report, which was issued late last week, went over like a lead balloon on both sides of the aisle because it calls for the kind of responsible governance that we need from our legislators.
Ironically, the public that clamors for responsible government, and vilifies their politicians for not governing responsibly, will positively crucify elected officials when the budget knife cuts their social security, closes one of the hugely wasteful pet projects of the military-defense establishment, or robs the artery-clogged health insurance system of a few shekels.
The GOP is also supposed to be the party of national defense. Yet John McCain spearheaded the drive to kill the appropriations bill for our national defense to deny Mr. Obama a win on repealing the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" (DADT) legislation, even though it was leaked that the Pentagon's own study of the issue with the common soldier to be released in the first week of December, a McCain requirement for passage that has been met, overwhelmingly suggests that it is no big deal in the military culture. It is, though, for homophobes in the Tea Party movement and for the GOP's heavy contributors who are homophobic religious zealots like Focus on the Family's James Dobson.
We are rapidly becoming the twisted vision of men like Karl Rove and Fox's Roger Ailes, who called NPR a "Nazi" organization, Jon Stewart "crazy" and calls for a one party Republican world:
They are pulling the GOP so far off of its Goldwater roots as a fiscally conservative party of responsive yet financially responsible government that they can do little more than worry about kowtowing to all of their special interest groups.
The Republican Party was handed an angry gift by the voters in this last election cycle to change things and get the country on track.
Yet they are still so hell-bent on removing the black guy over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that they're throwing their legislative effort into fueling another two years of white angst and anger instead of spending time legislating and proving that they can do something to fix the myriad problems we face.
This election insanity has pushed even more people into the "No Party" column, and has also made the Democratic Party so spectral and inclusive that it is incapable of governing either.
Other than buying the influence of a few, this power play is to what other purpose? The Republicans stable of 2012 presidential hopefuls is a hodgepodge of extremists, science deniers and morons, or politicians who make their living catering to same.
Sarah Palin couldn't hold up for one term as governor. The only difference between her and a tree stump is better hair and makeup. Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee raised his hand when asked who doesn't believe in evolution. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney did too, and also turned on his own health care initiative to score points for the GOP's stampede of old white seniors on the Health Care Reform Act.
Then there are those who would do anything for a political buck. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush never met an extremist derriere that he didn't kiss if a contribution was attached to it, and Mississippi governor Haley Barbour spends more of his time raising funds from extremists and getting Republicans elected than doing much of anything in the way of running his poor and faltering state.
None of this screams sound governance or leadership. The Republican Party is a seething cauldron of religious freaks, Libertarian anarchists, homophobes, and racists with the one commonality of seeking power, not to govern.
The GOP has gone missing. Contact the FBI if you see the van with the elephant's trunk sticking out of the back passing you on the highway today.
My shiny two.